21 October 2016
Xi Jinping wants China to become a middle-class society by 2021. Photo: Xinhua
Xi Jinping wants China to become a middle-class society by 2021. Photo: Xinhua

What makes the 13th five-year plan different

China unveiled proposals for its 13th five-year plan (2016-2020) last week.

President Xi Jinping introduced the proposals to set the framework and tone for the new five-year blueprint.

It’s quite rare for the president to explain the contents of the five-year plan himself.

In the past, the State Council usually dominated the planning for the next five years.

It shows that Xi cares a great deal about the first five-year plan to be initiated during his leadership and is keen to set the tone for future development.

The proposals aim at “maintaining medium-high growth” over the next decade, from high growth previously, and say the economy will face a “new norm” and try to break out of the middle-income trap.

The government will also strengthen its governing capacity during the economy’s restructuring, Xi said.

He also declared that the “Chinese dream” will be fulfilled according to the goals of his “two centenaries” — a middle-class society by 2021, the centenary of the Chinese Communist Party, and a modernized socialist country by 2049, the centenary of the People’s Republic of China.

The government has to make various adjustments in social and public services along the way.

Compared with the 11th five-year plan, proposed by former premier Wen Jiabao, Xi stressed new development ideas for the next five years, while Wen focused on detailed economic and social targets.

Xi highlighted the ideas of innovation, coordination, green development, opening up and sharing to fulfill development goals.

Of these, coordination, green development and opening up have long been China’s goals.

The country intends to achieve balanced development in rural and urban areas, social and economic development, conservation of resources, development of a green economy, sustainable development and its “going out” and “bringing in” investment themes.

Innovation and sharing are two new features of the proposed plan.

The proposal highlights economic and industrial development in the innovation sector and envisages using first-mover advantage, through attracting investment, to replace catch-up development.

That goes beyond China’s industrial restructuring during the last decade and focuses on the foundations for beefing up the country’s industrial competitiveness.

Xi also highlighted sharing.

His proposals included improving the welfare of the people, stressing fairness of opportunity and ensuring basic livelihood, and building a moderately prosperous society by 2020.

In fact, many investment projects and auxiliary plans have already been announced.

For example, the “Made in China 2025″ goal was released in May.

Also, the “One Belt, One Road” strategy has attracted huge attention, and local governments have already started infrastructure planning and making investment arrangements with it in mind.

Xi said an annual economic growth rate of 6.5 percent will be the bottom line for the 13th five-year period, somewhat lower than the 7 percent or 8 percent targets set in the past 20 years.

The proposals also mentioned support for Hong Kong’s involvement in the country’s two-way opening up and “One Belt, One Road” strategy, and envisage that the city will remain as a global financial, shipping and trading center and a key offshore renminbi hub.

It appears that Hong Kong does not have too many new opportunities apart from continuing to play a key role in investment and financing, which may not benefit ordinary residents of the city.

Hong Kong has to develop its own plans in conjunction with “Made in China 2025”, “Internet plus” and innovation.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 9.

Translation by Julie Zhu

[Chinese version中文版]

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Researcher, China Business Centre of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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